I was wondering if you have any advice for women who’ve endured the triple whammy of their marriages being blown apart by an affair partner, addiction (a second affair partner), and then having to suffer through 50/50 custody with said addict asshole because the court system seems to take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to your kids lives?
I always knew something was up with my ex and the mail lady, but he swore he barely knew her. When I filed for divorce and full custody because my ex is an addict and FREAKING INSANE, he collected statements from his enabling family and the mail lady who, it seems, he did know very well, and whose kids “enjoy his company”. Barf.
It took everything in me not to walk into our post office and request that someone else handle my mail, because she is so very whorey, and I’m afraid she may be brewing some new form of STD that can be transferred by touch.
Back to what I was saying…
Any words of advice for those like me, for whom addiction was an even worse mistress? And who were failed by the court system? I know, document everything. I do. And I know he will be caught eventually. It’s just the waiting. I hate it.
Wow. That really is a triple-decker shit sandwich you’ve got there. I’m not answering your letter because I’ve got some super terrific advice here. But because it’s likely some folks in Chump Nation can commiserate and strategize with you. If I had a magic wand that would make selfish, checked out addicts sober responsible people? I’d be a full-time fairy godmother superhero — and trust me, I’ve got my own list of addicted fuckwits I’d like to personally zap.
Back to your question — document. Oh, I know you already know that, but DOCUMENT. Custody decisions are based on the best interests of the children, so everything you document has to be seen through that lens.
Good documentation: Because Fuckwit was sleeping off his bender, Mary missed the school play.
Bad documentation: Fuckwit is a terrible parent! He parties with Whorey Mail Mistress!
Chumps are always parenting against the prevailing wisdom of Never Say Anything Bad About the Other Parent Because It Damages the Children. Any editorializing (she’s a whore! he’s a worthless drunk!) will get you cast as bitter and alienating. You’ll be seen as someone with a grudge and an agenda.
Is this fair? No, of course it isn’t. Go scream into a pillow at the injustice. Now return your attention to documentation. Some pointers:
1.) Don’t just document all the crap he does — document WHAT YOU DO. As I’ve said here before you can’t co- anything with a narcissist. I know a hundred people are going to write me and say addicts are suffering from disease — okay. WTFever. It’s a “disease” that makes them treat everyone around them like shit. Unless they want something, and then they manipulate like champs. No one knows impression management like an addict. These people prefer substances to substance. Bottles have no needs. Opiates always understand. You, the little people, will have to pick up the slack.
Things are always lopsided with addicts and cheaters. Their attention is directed elsewhere. They don’t have a lot to give. They will project their entitlement as totally normal. They will weave a thousand lies about how accomplished they are, how functional, How Much They Give!
The truth? You’re doing it all. You’re investing the time. You’re picking up the slack. The power is in those details. YOU show up. You sew the costume. You do the book reports. You make sure there is money on the lunch card. You stay home with the sick kid. All of that adds up and demonstrates the addict’s deficit. These fuckers don’t do responsibility. They do chaos. Show your value. Document how much you do.
2.) Document with specific details how the addiction affects your children. The missed school play. Junior shows signs of neglect and has worn the same outfit to school for four straight days. Taylor complains of stomach aches after she spends time with Dad. Bobby was left in a locked car. If ANYTHING shows immediate harm to those kids? Get an emergency injunction. Meanwhile, build the case of how the addiction results in neglect (or danger) and hurts the kids.
Short of immediate harm, your narrative to the court cannot be one of anger and frustration at the addict. (See pillow screaming above.) Your narrative is one of dilemma — how to balance the children’s right to have a loving relationship with Fuckwit against your concern about the fuckwit’s addiction. (Don’t say fuckwit. Say sad sausage. No, say Bob, or whatever his name is.)
You aren’t bitter with an agenda to protect your kids (you horrible woman!) — you’re a concerned loving former partner who just wants the best for everyone.
Look, I know anyone endangering your children makes you want to rip their spleen out with a rusty set of pliers, but for the court? You recognize the humanity of the addict. It’s all Very Sad.
3.) Keep lines of communication open with kids. You don’t mention their ages, but at whatever age they can manage a cell phone? Get them one. Let them know they can always reach you.
4.) Don’t raise them to be chumps. Get the kids therapy, go to Al-Anon, school counselors — surround them with as many healthy adults as you can who will model what it is to be sane and loving. Don’t let them make their needs tiny so as not to upset the addict. Help them manage their expectations with this person. Teach them that it’s okay to reach out for help. It’s okay to voice needs. In short, don’t let them grow up to be co-dependent chumps who think chaos and entitlement is normal. It’s not. It’s toxic. That shit should never feel normal.
Addicts surround themselves with enablers. So while you’re defogging the kids, defog yourself. Enablers will act like the chaos is normal. Nothing to see here, move on! They will ardently defend the addict and keep the sad sausage from consequences. Remember, that’s about them. Try not to take it personally. Just stay clear on your sane parent duties. And document, document, document. Sorry. I hope you get your day in court soon.